MSA Advisor: Islam teaches peace, not violence

“If we go by generalizations, all of you guys are actually terrorists,” said Sohaib Chekima, advisor to the Hudson Valley Muslim Student Association, at the group’s Oct. 28 event, Islam, Jihad, and Terrorism.

The BTC auditorium was filled with students for the discussion on the timely and controversial topic. It was hosted by the Muslim Student Association to show that the religion of Islam is not inherently violent.

“We are to condemn the act [of violence]. As you’re condemning the act, divorce the act from the people. Do not generalize,” said Chekima.

Chekima gave a presentation that included verses from the Quran that promote peace and compassion. There were multiple examples of verses where God prohibits killing, including one that went as far as to say, “[A]nyone who has murdered any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people.”

The presentation also included verses that direct Muslims not to force non-Muslims to convert to their religion and verses that give ethical rules for warfare.

Chekima presented these verses as evidence that violent groups that claim to be Islamic actually do not follow the Quran, and that the religion gets unfairly singled out in the United States.

“You have to have a black sheep. Throughout the history of the United States you always have to have one group being picked on,” said Chekima.

During the talk, Chekima spoke about the word “terrorism” and its lack of a legal definition. He said that Muslims are unfairly associated with the word. “In the United States, to be called a terrorist you have to be crazy and be a Muslim,” he said.

He pointed out that nearly any group could be generalized in the same way if the actions of a violent minority were used to represent the entire group. For example, calling all Muslims terrorists because of ISIS is like calling all white men terrorists because of the Ku Klux Klan.

Chekima’s primary message was that individuals should do research before stigmatizing populations and not always trust the narrative of the media. “The media counts on people not going out and learning things for himself,” he said.

This message was welcomed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“It was really good and very educational. I’m a Muslim and even for me it was very educational and definitely a reminder,” said Saad Tai, president of the Muslim Student Association.

“I think he was an eloquent speaker and he did a good job clearly explaining the difference between the religion and the acts of the people who claim to be following it,” said campus chaplain Cylon George.

The Muslim Student Association’s goal is to spread awareness about the religion and let people know that most Muslims are not violent. Its next event, on Monday, Nov. 17, is “The Hijab Day Challenge.” Women at Hudson Valley will be able to try on a hijab, the Islamic headscarf, and wear it for the whole day if they are up to the challenge.

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